Dogs are commonly referred to as man’s best friend and for good reason. Dogs have helped humans for centuries. They went from wild animals to beloved family members and now offer vital support for their owners.
There is evidence that dogs were the first animals domesticated by humans more than 30,000 years ago (more than 10,000 years before the domestication of horses and ruminants). Around this time, wolves began scavenging food scraps from humans, who in turn began domesticating the wild animal by providing shelter and protection from predators. In turn, the wolves helped them with challenges such as hunting and gathering. Over thousands of years, they turned into our trusted canine partners they are today.
Now, dogs service important roles for humans in different ways. They may be a beloved pet dog to a child, support veterans with PTSD, help find survivors in disaster areas, assist civilians, and so much more. There are many ways dogs help us today and service dogs are some of the most important pooches out there.
What is a Service Dog?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), published in 1990, legally recognized service dogs as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, alerting owners to a panic attack, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.”
This was the first time service dogs were formally recognized and when they first earned rights. This set them apart from pet dogs and recognized them in the US as service animals. The partnership between person and service dog began to blossom around this time and led to many different types of service animals.
Types of Service Dogs
There are a few different types of service dogs, each with their own unique training and skill set designed to assist and support their person. There are even other service animals, such as a miniature horse or monkey, but they are not recognized by the ADA as a legitimate service animal.
Let’s discuss the various types of service dogs below.
- A service dog receives extensive certified training to help an individual with tasks that their disability prevents them from doing. Some of the most common types of service dogs are seeing-eye-dogs, autism service dogs, and mobility service dogs. These dogs help their handlers safely navigate the world, thus they are allowed in public spaces under the ADA. There are also other types of service dogs that receive training for non-disability related issues as well, such as special task forces, such as search and rescue dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, and more.
- A psychiatric service dog also receives specialized task training and is a recognized service dog, but they help unseen disabilities, such as post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and others. These animals help their owners sense their episodes and support them through it. Just like other service dogs, psychiatric service dogs have public access rights and certain travel and housing privileges. For example, they are allowed on planes, in non-pet friendly housing, in public spaces, etc. They go anywhere their owner goes and are a legitimate service dog for people with a disability.
- Emotional support animals are companion animals who help provide comfort to their owners. Dogs and cats are the most common types of emotional support animals and require no service dog training, therefore they are not service animals, they are simply pets that provide comfort. Emotional support animals are pets, service animals are not. An emotional support dog requires a doctor’s note, but no certification or identification card. Because of this, emotional support dogs do not have the same federally protected rights as trained service dogs and are not able to accompany their owners in public places. But, they may be allowed in non-pet housing or not require pet rent in certain housing.
- Therapy dogs are often found in hospitals or nursing homes. The presence of therapy dogs can bring comfort, social interaction, reduced stress, and joy into the lives of children or elderly folks in the hospital or at a nursing home. Therapy dogs usually undergo specialized therapy dog training in order to work in these special settings, but they are not defined as service animals under the ADA. They do not have the same rights as service dogs and are not allowed in public places unless specified. If you think your dog may be a good therapy dog, click here to learn how to begin training.
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
A psychiatric service dog is a very unique type. These specially-trained service animals help support their owners’ unseen disabilities. Since PSDs require extensive, quality training, they are recognized as a service animal by the ADA and have certain rights protected by federal law. It’s important to know these laws and review this information so you know what your service animal is entitled to.
Service Dog Rights
- Public access rights: This means psychiatric service dogs have a right to come with their owners in public locations, such as restaurants, malls, businesses and stores where animals are not normally allowed. This can vary state-to-state law wise, but a service animal must be allowed in an organization if their handler needs them. This right is protected by the ADA.
- Travel rights: This ADA ensured right states that service dogs can travel with their handlers anywhere they go. This means they are allowed on all public transportation, including planes, trains, taxis, buses, etc. In fact, these dogs have a right to sit in the cabin and the owner does not have to pay a fee for their service animal to fly with them.
- Fair housing: Under the Fair Housing Act, service dogs can live in housing that doesn’t normally allow pets at no additional fee. This applies even if the housing location has a no pets policy. This way a service dog owner can have the support and assistance they need from their pup in their home. If an individual is denied housing because of a service animal, this violates disability law and is discrimination and can be brought up in a court of law.
- Educational Facility Access: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, service animals can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc. Whether a disability or impairment is physical or mental, if someone needs the support of a service animal to learn in a facility, it must be allowed. This partnership of human and dog is vital.
Types of Psychiatric Service Dog Training
We’re going to focus on psychiatric service dogs today. These pups, as well as other types of service dogs, go through extensive service dog training programs. Training service dogs is a difficult task, especially since what needs to be taught varies for all disabilities. It’s vital to train your assistance animal well, so let’s discuss the different types of training you can pursue.
- Self training: It is possible for a handler to train their own service dog, but it is not recommended. Task training is very difficult and requires experts for a reason. It’s best to work with a qualified service dog trainer who can help you throughout the process. If you do go this route, it’s important to do your research to ensure you’re ready to train an animal.
- Adopting an already trained PSD from a service dog organization: This is a popular method, but requires a lot of money upfront. Service dog trainers work with a dog, usually from birth, to prepare them to be a service dog. The main problem with this method is the high price. A trained service dog will cost you around $30,000 from reputable trainers, which is quite a bit of money to bring a service dog home for about 10 years.
- Partnering with a professional dog trainer: This is the most popular option and for good reason. Working with a service dog trainer allows you and your dog to work together to address any problems you may have and find a task to help solve it. You can modify behavior of your pooch, explain more about your condition, and make sure you and your dog are on the same page and work as a partnership. It also helps to be able to ask someone questions as you and your dogs are the clients in this situation.
What Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Do?
By definition, a psychiatric service dog must be trained to perform a specific task that aids its owner with their disability. Some tasks PSDs are trained to handle include:
- Wake up their owner from nightmares
- Provide tactile stimulation during anxiety attacks
- Facilitating social interactions for owner and reducing fears of being around others
- Grounding a person dealing with anxiety
- Fetch medication and water
- Lead their handler to safe place
- Help create a safe personal space if their handler is overwhelmed
- Provide balance assistance if their handler is struggling
- Remind their handler to take medication at certain times of day
The services these dogs provide are very important to people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and many other disabilities. We’re currently onboarding our professional dog trainers and will be offering this option very soon. In the meantime, those interested in getting a psychiatric service dog can begin the process by seeing if they qualify for a PSD through our free screening here.
How to Get a Psychiatric Service Dog in Minnesota
The first step to getting a PSD is consulting with a mental health professional. They will discuss your mental health and see if a service dog or an emotional support dog may be a good fit for you. It’s important to remember that in order to get a service dog, you must have a diagnosed disability. But you may qualify for an ESA and both are known to provide comfort to people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses.
Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, it’s time to find a dog for you. Any dog can become a service animal. There is not a law with breed restrictions or size or age requirements. It’s all about finding what works for you. If you struggle with balance because of your medication or condition, a larger dog may be a good choice so they can support you. Small dogs also have many benefits as well. The ADA states no specific breed is better than any other at providing services to their handler.
Adopt a Service Dog in Minnesota
Animal shelters and rescue organizations are a great place to find a canine companion who you can then train to become a psychiatric service dog. Below are some shelters in Minnesota where you can potentially adopt a new best friend. Visit their website, see if you find your perfect match and fill out an application! Volunteers will be able to offer a lot of great information about a dog’s behavior and personality to see if they would be a fit for you.
- Underdog Rescue – Louis Park, Minnesota, US
- Midwest Animal Rescue and Services – Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
- Secondhand Hounds – Minnetonka, Minnesota, US
- Ruff Start Rescue – Princeton, Minnesota, US
- Heart of Minnesota Animal Shelter – Hutchinson, Minnesota US
- Warrior Dog Rescue – Shakopee, Minnesota, US
- Animal Humane Society – Coon Rapids, Minnesota, US
These shelters will help you find your perfect fit! Be sure to mention your disability during the process to see if the dog would work well for you as a service animal. Ask questions about their personality, trainability, age and more. Fill out any necessary forms and talk with people at the shelter about the pup you’re interested in. Your adoption fee or donation could even be tax deductible.
Psychiatric Service Dog Training in Minnesota
Once you have found the perfect canine compassion, it’s time to begin training. As mentioned earlier, partner with a service dog training organization or service dog trainer for the best results.
The trainer will map out a service dog training program for you and your dog based on information you provide about your disorder. Dogs are individuals, so custom service dog training plans are usually necessary. During training, your dog will learn the tasks it needs to perform, be introduced to busy public places, meet other service animals and dogs, go to businesses, etc.
Search for trainers with experience with service animals in the Minnesota area. Don’t reach out to just one, contact a few to find your perfect fit. You are the clients here, so ask plenty of questions, this animal causes your life to be easier after all, you want quality training.
Are you interested in getting a psychiatric service dog?
Here at CertaPet, we can help. CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.
We are currently coordinating with dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free. We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!
Can I train my own service dog?
It is possible to train your own service animal, but it is not recommended. It’s best to work with a professional trainer for the best results.
What is the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal?
A service dog is a federally recognized assistance animal that undergoes specialized training to assist people with disabilities, while emotional support animals are merely pets who help provide comforts and require no formal training.
What mental disorders can service dogs assist with?
Service dogs can help with many mental disorders including PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and many more.